Mobile Computing, Apps and Devices
Mobile Computing in Education and Training
Catering to Different Abilities
Prevailing Mobile Technologies
Tablets: The Catalyst for Change
Role of Smartphones
Support for Educators
Genres and Categories of Apps
There are literally thousands of educational apps that cater to the many different needs of mobile device users who represent the constantly-connected generation. Students rely on having technology that is available anywhere and at anytime. They use social media, access video sites and portals, use text and voice mail, search the web and communicate quickly, effortlessly and seamlessly. This is a very different scenario to what previous generations enjoyed.
Apps appear weekly with enhancements and updates made available at little or minimal cost. Smart phones and tablets have increasingly encroached upon the traditional laptop, Notebook and Netbooks. Small, portable, accessible, discreet devices offer so many features and opportunities for mobile learning. Diverse applications cater to niche markets and education, industry and every enterprise has been transformed due to the speed and transformation of computing, communication and information technologies.
Mobile technologies have transformed how society works with technology. Mobile devices are used in our homes, cars, cafes, classrooms, work places and industry. We use them on transport, while we recreate, exercise, work and go about our daily routines. People listen to music, lectures and Podcasts, watch TV and video content, organise their day, schedule appointments, locate weather services, read books and newspapers, conduct research, text friends, upload photos, add comments to Blogs and Wikis, vote on key issues, add comments to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, receive RSS feeds, use QR codes to locate goods and services, use maps and GPS services, check stock markets, go shopping, take virtual tours, book tickets, bid for online auctions and buy merchandise.
Mobile devices are ubiquitous and are seen as essential and critical tools that keep everyone in today’s society in touch with every event, everyone and everything.
Included in these features and functions are the many empowering Universal Design functions. Inbuilt voice over for vision impaired and blind users, voice recognition, text to speech options, large text, colour and graphics based backgrounds, audio recording, text predication, still and movie cameras and gesture and handwriting recognition. These features are used judiciously and effectively by different genres of Apps that cater to education, communication, business, productivity and learning in general.
The use of educational technology may come naturally to some educators and trainers who have a passion for tech-savvy solutions in the classroom and who have embraced computing devices in the past. They have identified the strengths of e-learning and IT and promoted the use of technology in teaching and learning. Educators are now who striving to realise the potential of mobile devices and make the most of the educational capabilities of wireless and portable digital technologies.
Educators are beginning to utilise the Smart Phone’s and tablet's tools and inbuilt functions, using an repertoire of tips, tricks and strategies to engage students, help them stay organized, and manage multiple formats of digital media. Learning about the inherent features in the iOS, Android or Windows 7 operating system, acquisition and purchase of Apps, how to manage and maintain the devices, how to incorporate them in teaching, learning and training and how to use them effectively in the classroom is required and keenly sought.
In other words, they want to know how best to imbed mobile computing and promote best practice. Accommodation of students with different abilities has become a mainstream topic and area of need that is discussed and dealt with as part of the exploration and experience. This is exciting and quite revolutionary.
Problems inherent with any new technology can be a major drawback to the use of computers or tablet devices in education and training. The provision of technology has always been regarded as an impost and as a cost, incurred in cycles as issues of damage; malfunction, obsolescence as general wear and tear take its toll. Continually updating and replacing equipment is a drain on funds. It can often witness a lack of appropriate cycles of funding to adequately maintain systems or upgrade them in a timely manner.
For other educators, it has been a simple lack of experience, opportunity or time taken to fully explore all of the opportunities and they have fallen behind. They are not confident users of technology or have not identified technology as being relevant for them.
Mobile devices such as Smart phones and tablets have altered that perception and attitude in many instances. Having a phone is commonplace. Having a tablet is increasingly been accepted by educators and students alike as an essential tool that provides them with opportunities for engaging with family, friends and colleagues. Tablets are the catalyst for a change in attitude to digital and mobile technologies as they are
- Intuitive and easy to use
- Engaging and exciting
- Able to be used anywhere, anytime
- Expansive in function and capabilities
- Tools that provide a vast range of opportunities for a broad range of applications
- Cost and time efficient
- Socially desirable and acceptable
In the area of inclusive technologies, the thrust and impact of mobile computing phones and tablets has witnessed a rapid deployment and introduction of devices into education and training. The universal design and access features have been embraced by users and practitioners alike as functions that were formerly acquired or purchased as standalone genres and software sub-sets are now built in to the devices.
When these features are located and activated, the performance and application of the Apps can be adapted and modified to meet the needs of different users. Individualised learning can be realised and accommodations made almost instantly. The needs of many users can be met without fuss.
Additional add-ons such as wireless or Bluetooth keyboards, different sized and weighted stylus options, switches, speakers, mounts, cases and other peripherals accommodate vision, hearing and physical access.
- How can they accommodate people with different abilities?
- How can they assist students and trainees in learning and training?
- How do educators and trainers acquire skills, knowledge and understanding about how to effectively incorporate them into teaching, learning, training and instruction?
The needs of all users must be taken into account with any formal introduction of a new technology such as tablet computers. It is not just the number of Apps that is a critical factor in choosing a tablet. Other considerations must be accounted for in determining what trend will most likely be the predominant force in education and training environments.
Factors may include one of more of the following when considering a tablet for users with different abilities and needs:
- Size and weight
- Screen size, design and resolution
- Operating system and processor
- Internal or upgradable memory
- Speed, functions and features
- Robustness, reliability and build quality
- Access to a broad range of Apps
- Number, quality and range of inbuilt OS accessibility options
- Range of accessories and peripherals
- Wireless and broadband options and speed
- Total cost of ownership (initial and ongoing costs)
- Market presence in education and training
- Opportunities for professional development, training and support
- Online information (YouTube videos, FAQs, fact sheets, user guides etc)
The Apple iOS based devices have made significant advances into education with Android and other operating systems attempting to catch up. Apple has ensured that the universal access functions as developed in their MAC OS versions have matched if not surpassed their other computing devices such as in MAC desktops, Airbook and notebook models.
Apple has been involved in education and training in all sectors for many years and has a mature attitude to this market. Educational resources, training and support are readily available as well as a network of Apple branded stores as well as other MAC resellers and general IT stores and outlets.
The latest iPads and iPhones share similar functions and features, some specific to Apple iOS including Siri and Facetime. The accessibility functions of voice recognition, audio recording, text to speech using high quality localised voices, Voice Over and other features are consistent across the range of mobile devices. The iTunes software that can be deployed on multiple operating systems as well as iCloud provides opportunities for choice and global access to Apps, music and other content.
Android and other competing tablets have similar Apps and some comparative features and functions. The size of devices and screens vary. Price and performance also are variables. The implementation and configuration of the various versions of the Android operating system and how it is deployed and maximised delivers many different and alternate options. It is less consistent than that of iOS and can cause confusion in trying to compare like-with-like choices. Direct product and feature comparison of devices is fraught with frustration as can be quite technical.
At first, when the iPad was initially launched and later competed with tablet models from other vendors, it was seen as a potential fad. They were perceived by many in the traditional computing hardware and software development industry as yet another technology that might have an impact but would not compete with or replace the prevailing desktop and portable computing devices. Many argued that the iPad having offered no Flash capability or content. It didn’t have the capability or facility to print and had no USB ports or memory card facilities.
The iPad has been the catalyst for changing how, when and where people work, study, collaborate, communicate and share information. Initially embraced by computing enthusiasts, they quickly excited different generations of users.
In education, this has witnessed an uptake by many senior educators who had formerly shunned and avoided IT, or only begrudgingly used it for productivity, assessment and reporting. Educators and parents identified the ease of use and portability in addition to how younger students and especially those with specific learning needs and disorders embraced these tools. It was appealing and engaging and catered to disparate and diverse audiences, ranging from toddlers to senior citizens.
The inherent universal design features provide opportunities for almost anyone to access them, with some limitations for people with specific access needs. Where specific software utility and tools were required to accommodate needs of individuals prevailing technologies, the tablets offered these within the device and complemented and further enhanced and developed in the Apps.
For example, Apps commonly include a number of inclusive technology software genres. A person might be using a notepad App that offers different text styles, colours and sizes, together with text to speech options for voiced feedback. It might also include a handwriting recognition component together with audio recording. A user who has reading and writing difficulties is accommodated within one App that has synthesized technologies in an easy to use, intuitive application at a minimal cost.
The total cost of ownership is therefore decreasing. After the initial purchased cost of the tablet, the Apps that pertain to a need can be acquired and a library built. The relevant Apps are learnt and mastered along with the features and functions. Free upgrades in many free and commercial Apps provide ongoing support and avoid the issue of having to replenish, update or cross over to other more powerful options.
Acceptance is the key with any technology. Abandonment issues have been a constant issue with many inclusive technologies due to varied factors, with time and opportunity being foremost in education as devices and software are continually reversioned and upgraded. The traditional computing hardware, devices and software have been deemphasised due to tablet technologies, and this will most likely continue.
Smart Phones represent a far broader and diverse market. Hundreds of models vie for consumer attention and all differ again in operating system and processor brand and type, speed, size, weight, screen size, screen surface technology and resolution, inbuilt and optional upgradable memory, number and megapixel rating of one or more cameras, connectors such as USB, memory card facility and capacity, optional extra accessories as well as cases, stylus and screen/case protectors.
The capacity for Smartphones to roam using 3G or the newer 4G networks means that communication to one or many people is possible with telephony, SMS, texting, social media, Facetime or Skype and via other web based services and portals.
Many Apps are available for both Tablets and Smart phones. The size of the phone and screen dimensions limits some applications but they are even more portable than are tablets. Similar functionality and features provide opportunities for education; training and mobile or cell phones have been a major and vital tool in industry, work place and enterprise since the introduction of mobile phones.
How Smart phones are used and in what contexts are yet to be fully exploited. Some schools, TAFEs and Universities have embraced them as they understand that students have sophisticated skills, regimes and practices. Many students seamlessly integrate the various attributes to realise real learning outcomes. Instant and immediate access to Web 2.0 and 3.0 tools, e-learning systems, intranets, online resources and information, news and current affairs as well as social media portals allows them to access and interface with practically any person, service or source required to gather, edit, manipulate, store, save and share information.
Online tools cater to note taking, storage, retrieval and sharing across multiple platforms. Tools such as Evernote provide options to save any media and have it readily accessible across many different computing and mobile devices, for personal or public consumption. Online storage offered by Dropbox and SpiderOak provide for cloud services at little minimal cost.
The total cost of ownership for electronic and digital computing devices is gradually decreasing. Once schools, and tertiary institutes, centres of instruction and training as well as workplaces upgrade their infrastructure and capacity to allow for wireless integration of prevailing computing resources and systems, the prevalence and significance of tablet and Smartphone devices will become more commonplace.
There are a number of ways to find free educational resources for teachers who want to use digital tablets and Smart phones in the classroom. Educators are seeking information about the devices and the pedagogical implications of incorporating Apps into teaching, leaning, assessment and reporting. They are researching and inquiring about suitable Apps and the surrounding issues of educational and training applications and scenarios. They are reconsidering course content and providing alternate formats. Publishers are beginning to embrace and offer eBook content.
Educators are also keen to investigate and pursue training courses, seminars and Conferences in order to gain credits in their own continuing education. The choice of attending in person or in online webinars and virtual courses caters to time poor or remote individuals, centres or schools.
Educators, who may not have time for coursework, can consider attending educational seminars and workshops that explore how to integrate technology into the classroom. Alternatively, reading and perusing the leading education blogs that offer technology tips for teachers are always worthwhile. Increasingly, YouTube training, learning content and ‘how-tos” are appearing to cater to visual learners and are an effective way to acquire skills and concepts as well as explore innovative uses of various mobile devices.
There are countless possibilities and potential uses of digital tablet devices in the classroom. Time and opportunity to experiment with different types of mobile devices available may be necessary or concentrate on one brand and model. Educators and trainers need to refine and develop classroom practices so as to better and more inclusively integrative the technologies that work for everyone.
The practical benefits and portability of tablets are one of the many advantages of technology in education highlighted in countless publications and research studies. A technology-rich classroom caters to many different and diverse learning styles. It helps to connect students to a vast amount of knowledge and interactive activities, simulations, virtual experiences and learning opportunities otherwise unobtainable or non feasible given constraints of time, funding, location and supervision.
Using QR codes can liberate users who do not require the ability or capacity to record, remember and correctly enter complicated or overly long URL addresses. Free Apps using inbuilt cameras scan the QR code and the user is instantly connected to the required resource. QR codes have also become quite ubiquitous in shopping and general leisure pursuits as published in newspapers, journals and magazines to connect consumers to goods and services.
Applications exist across all subject areas for intermediate, high-school and tertiary students, apprentices and trainees. From calculators to eBooks to interactive musculoskeletal diagrams, students can explore anything and everything with supplemental digital content that enhances existing and complementary physical and/or electronic curriculum materials. Popular apps for high-schoolers include study apps and other test preparation software.
In an undergraduate setting, tablets can be used to track statistical data, conduct geographical mapping surveys, or organize student progress and grading. For collaborative projects and surveys, lecturers can use applications to conduct surveys with students in real-time, viewing immediate feedback and responses from the class. Use of online Web 2.0 tools invites and promotes collaborative strategies. Use of Google Maps, online atlases and services provide for locating people, resources and locations.
Tablets and Smart phones offer many different options and Apps with associated commercial or free services for accessing, downloading and reading digital textbooks for course material. It can often be less expensive and certainly more amenable than having to remember to pack and carry large, heavy cumbersome textbooks, novels and reading material.
Apps have been created and designed to meet one or more needs. Software developers range from individuals to corporations and everything in between. Many are expert programmers with years of skills and expertise with others just coming to terms for the iOS Android or pertinent programming environment.
When users are researching and deciding upon suitable Apps, some basic criteria apply
- iOS or Android or other operating system version matching the device or as an update
- Name and version of the App
- Compatibility of the App version with one or more devices
- The software developer or corresponding web site (for additional background information)
- Cost – whether it is commercial, free, a trial, introductory, demonstration or Lite version
- Description of purpose and functionality
- Supplier(s) and corresponding web site
- Rating (often not indicative of functionality or suitability)
- Other related or popular Apps
- Reviews and supporting evidence by other educators and practitioners
- YouTube tutorials, FAQs or other documentation, articles or user guides
Apps are usually categorised in meaningful ways. The most common and popular in education and training include:
- Reading (Audible, Zinio)
- Web Reading (e.g. Flipboard, Reeder, InstaPaper, Web Reader, Read It Later)
- Internet Search (e.g. Google Search, Dragon Search)
- eBook Apps (e.g. iBooks, Blio, Stanza, Kindle, BN eReader, vBooks)
- Writing (including writing and drawing, hand writing recognition) (e.g. Vod Lit)
- OCR – (e.g. CamScanner, Perfect OCR, Image to Text)
- Text and Word Prediction (IntelliPad, Zen Tap Pro, Typ-O HD)
- Magnifiers (e.g. Eye Reader)
- Note taking (including hand writing recognition, text to speech, narration and rich media content) (e.g. AbiliPad, Sling Note, WritePad, AudioNote, SoundNote)
- Voice Recognition (Siri, Dragon Dictation, Dragon Search)
- Online note taking and storage (e.g. Evernote)
- Online cloud storage (e.g. DropBox and SpiderOak)
- Productivity suites (e.g. HD Suite, Pages, MS Office 2010, SimpleNote)
- Presentation tools (e.g. Keynote)
- PDF readers (e.g. GoodReader, Readdle Docs for iPad, PDF Expert, PDF Reader Pro)
- Mind Mapping and Webbing (e.g. iThoughts, MindNote, Penultimate, Bento)
- Planning and Organisation
- Maths calculators (with large text, text to speech, scientific and programmable functionality)
- Dictionaries, thesaurus
- Encyclopaedia, atlases,
- Tutorials on popular apps and genres
- And many many more.
- Anita Rafferty’s Apps for vision impaired users (Spectronics)
- Greg O’Connor’s Apps for Literacy (Spectronics)
- Appitic – 1300 Apps listed by Apple Educators
- Free eBook - Accessibility Features in iOS devices
- MakeUseOf Best 100 Apps - the best 100 Android applications
- Appannie 600 of the best iPad Apps
- Learninginhand - An educational rubric for evaluating and documenting useful Apps
- Gerry Kennedy’s - Weally Wonderful Apps V3.0
Last Updated ( Monday, 23 April 2012 17:15 )